Water.

Few things are as relaxing to me as taking a bath. Well, getting a massage, or lying in the arms of the person you love while they whisper comforting words aren’t bad options either. But I just got out of a nice, long bath and have to wonder; why is it that being in water feels so good?

They say it’s because our bodies are mostly made up of water. So our bodies feel at home in water.  Or because we spend the first nine months of our existence in amniotic fluid. Which is why birthing in water is gaining popularity as a much less traumatic experience for mother and baby. Seems women have done it alone instinctively for thousands of years all over the world. And by the way, babies can instinctively swim, from birth, they loose that ability at about six months.

Or maybe it’s because the first organisms on earth lived in water. I’m not a scientist but I think I remember from biology class that ‘life’ has technically existed on earth for almost 4 billion years, but life on land only for 400 million years. Without giving yourself a math headache, you can tell that’s a long time it took for ‘us’ to get out of the water. Tolle, the modern-day philosopher and ‘spiritual’** teacher, who wrote two of the books that are always somewhere by my bedside, tells it nicely:

It is believed that the life­forms on this planet first evolved in the sea. When there were no animals yet to be found on land, the sea was already teeming with life. Then at some point, one of the sea creatures must have started to venture onto dry land. It would perhaps crawl a few inches at first, then exhausted by the enormous gravitational pull of the planet, it would return to the water, where gravity is almost nonexistent and where it could live with much greater ease. And then it tried again and again and again, and much later would adapt to life on land, grow feet instead of fins, develop lungs instead of gills. It seems unlikely that a species would venture into such an alien environment and undergo an evolutionary transformation unless it was compelled to do so by some crisis situation. There may have been a large sea area that got cut off from the main ocean where the water gradually receded over thousands of years, forcing fish to leave their habitat and evolve.

So somewhere in our cells or ancestral memory we must still feel subconsciously that land and gravity are foreign and tiring to us… thus we feel so free and happy  and light when we are floating in the sea or soaking in a bath. Sea water heals your skin and your soul. Running into the ocean or jumping into a pool can be exhilarating and fun.

One bath souvenir I have is from when I once was in Winnipeg, Canada, and here I will go a bit- a lot, off-topic. Winnipeg is the capital and largest city of the province of Manitoba, which is somewhere in the center of Canada. It was quite a random place for me to be. I had never heard of it when I was invited to go, nor had anyone I knew. I don’t think it’s exactly a place you’d randomly decide to cross the world to visit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice place- as most of Canada is. Nice, peaceful, laid-back atmosphere. And it boasts the Royal Canadian Mint, where coins for many of the world’s currencies are made- you’d be surprised, countries from all over the world. Speaking of the Royal Canadian Mint, they are now working on creating digital coins, so you don’t have to carry change in your pocket. It won’t be like a credit card, it will be anonymous, not connected to you, just like coins. They are still developing it, and trying to attract tech geniuses, software developers and hackers to help, and are going to pay them in solid gold. 50,000$ worth of solid gold coins and bars to start with. So get on it, friends.

Northern Manitoba even has Polar bears (though I didn’t see them). What’s not so pleasant about Winnipeg however… are the mosquitos. There are so many of them that you’ll find postcard and magnet souvenirs that humorously depict the Mosquito as the Provincial Bird of Manitoba. Here’s a photo of the one I have on my fridge:

It’s so bad that I had to lather on industrial amounts of mosquito repellent cream and spray myself constantly. Even then, I would have to watch as tens of them calmly stung me. See, they don’t move like regular mosquitos if you wave your arm. They are happy and comfortable, and don’t let their meal get disturbed. As the Winnipeggers or Manitobans advised, the only way to get some small measure of relief (ah and here we return to our topic) in the evenings from the swelling and itching is to soak in a bath of Epsom salts. Which we did. And it was so lovely it turned me on to baths. Usually sans Epsom salts though.

I especially love having my ears underwater in the bath. Do you know the sound? Seems to quiet out the whole world and your thoughts. Baths sometimes make me feel guilty though; ‘Waste of water’, ‘the environment’, etc. I always turn off the water when other people are brushing their teeth and letting the water run. Maybe we should all take ‘navy showers’- where you turn the water on for a few seconds to get wet, then turn it off to shampoo and soap and lather, then on to rinse. But I’m not ready to give up my baths just yet. And I really only have them very occasionally.

Yet it is true, world water supplies are shrinking and the population is increasing and we need to be more mindful of our water use. Last year, a certain small island country actually ran out of water (read here). Writing about water I also can’t help but think of all the people who don’t have access to clean water to drink. I had no idea just how many until now. Over 800 million people (source). That’s more than one in ten of us! Thankfully, a lot is being done and the situation is improving little by little (a bit of good news). Will list some ways we can help at the end of the post.

Water is a very particular liquid, defined by my mac’s built-in dictionary as ‘a colorless, transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid that forms the seas, lakes, rivers, and rain and is the basis of the fluids of living organisms.’ Have you read or seen Masuru Emoto’s work on messages in water? Though considered pseudoscience by most, it’s still fascinating to look at. He basically thinks that feelings can affect water molecules. He takes photographs of the frozen water molecules, then exposes them to music, prayer, or simply loving words, then photographs them again.

Here are before and after pictures:

Even if physicists are right in saying that his “watery fantasy is all very entertaining and imaginative, full of New Age feel-good platitudes, holistic oneness, consciousness raising, and warm fuzzies”(Hall A. H.), the results are still beautiful, regardless what it means, or how ‘real’ it is.

This may not be the deepest or most emotional blog post, I really wrote it as a way to answer my own wondering this morning about why being submerged in a bath feels so good, but why not celebrate water? Such a simple yet wonderful thing. It feels pretty darn good to have a drink when you’re parched. Or to have a shower with someone… So just remember to enjoy it. And get your eight glasses a day ;-)

(** I marked the word because it’s a word I don’t always feel comfortable with. It feels a bit pretentious and at times too loaded with connotations).  

Water‘ is a beautiful movie about the plight of widows in India, set against the backdrop and theme of water. ‘Flow‘ is an award-winning documentary that explores the question of privatisation of water, and whether anyone (let own big multinational corporations) can own water. 

Ways to help: Drop in the bucket, and Water Forward.

Writer’s blog. I mean block.

Someone very dear to me tells me to write about what I’m feeling or experiencing at this moment. And as you may have noticed, one of the things I have obviously been experiencing is an inability to write. Well, let’s not call it an inability just yet. But fact is, I haven’t written in a couple of months.

It makes me sad when someone understandably asks; so, you’re done with the blog? I sure hope I’m not! The very thought makes me feel like I’ve abandoned something precious.I love this blog. This blog got me writing. It got me crystalizing my thoughts and sharing them. It got me having exchanges and conversations about these thoughts with people I don’t know. Some of the comments people have posted are priceless to me. This blog feels like one of the best things I’ve done, and more than that, it’s my baby. Created out of the blue one day after work, and taking on a life of its own after that.

So what happened? Why have I for the past weeks, felt pressured to write but uninspired to do so. I still get loads of great ideas, but somehow, the more time passes, the harder it is for me to sit down and write. It begins to feel like this big thing that I should do, like something I have to do. And that’s not what it should be like. That’s not what it was. Before, it was a delicious pleasure, something all of my own.

All those who have ever procrastinated about a task will know the feeling. The more you put something off, the more unpleasant it becomes in your head. The more you tell yourself you ‘must’ do something, the less you want to. Yet we torment ourselves with ‘should’s’ and ‘must’s’. The great psychologist Albert Ellis calls this ‘musturbation’.

In relation to blogs in particular, I was surprised at the timeliness and synchronicity of randomly receiving this blog post in my inbox even though it is not a blog I follow. The post is called ’12-step program for very bad bloggers’ and begins like this;

Hi, my name is Jeny and I have blogger’s guilt. Unlike Catholic guilt, where you feel guilty about something you’ve done, blogger’s guilt comes from something you haven’t done.
I feel like I should blog, because I have a blog and then it doesn’t help that I’ve received massive amounts of requests from my reader to write something.

And yes, she says ‘reader’ not ‘readers’ because she muses that she must only have one reader left after not writing for so long. Hehhehe. Yes, it’s good to take your writing blo(ck/g) with a pinch of humor. So I hope you’re enjoying this post, my dear reader.

My friend Yasmina also wrote a post about writer’s block, back in January. So maybe we all go through it. And I don’t just mean writers or bloggers. Everyone. With different things. Don’t we all have things we start by simply wanting to do, then think we ought to do, and then don’t do.

So what brought this on?

Well, first off, some big life changes. Big changes make it hard to keep up your regular activities.

Does being in a relationship again play a part? I once read that married women can’t write. That somehow being in a relationship stifles creativity. I don’t believe that at all. Love, the good kind, should give you wings (yes, just like Red Bull or Always pads).

Anyway, around the time I stopped writing, I wrote a post about getting over relationships. A painful, heart-felt post. But I didn’t post it because I knew it would hurt someone. Two someones. My ex, and my new beau. Yes they both read my blog.

Friends I showed the post to also said; don’t publish it. It was the first time I’d censored myself. It made me wish I’d managed to keep my blog completely anonymous. (By the way, my ex found my blog because he’d seen it posted by someone on facebook, and had recognized my writing. I was touched, and still am, by how much he liked it, and how happy he was that I was writing. He said; you’ve always written, in your head, and in the way you talk and describe things, but now it’s finally out there!)

Even though the post was not just about them, but about breakups in general, breakups my friends had told me about, and even though I knew I’d written the post in an emotional moment that did not necessarily reflect the rest of reality, I knew they’d feel it did*.

Not posting it cut my flow. Before that, and from the beginning of the blog, I’d simply written and posted. Posting was part of my process. Something was in my head, then on ‘paper’ (that is Word processing virtual paper), then on the blog. There was no overthinking (which was very healthy for me, as everyone who knows me knows, I overthink everything and it makes me hesitant and indecisive). Nothing I wrote stayed inside, not in my head or heart or harddrive. But that post stayed there, festering in all those places. And knowing that the reason was self-censorship made it even worse. The whole point of the blog was to just openly share my thoughts. To feel free. To do something ‘me’.

The other thing that simultaneously happened is that people started to read the blog. It passed the 5,000 view mark, Leb-aggregator mentioned it, and Ragmag ran that little piece. Suddenly I began to worry if people would like my next posts. What if I’d simply been lucky with the first ones? What if I couldn’t write like that anymore? Was my ability to write just a temporary fluke? I know I shouldn’t think like that. I know I should just write and not worry who likes what or even whether anyone likes any of it.

The censorship and the fear seemed to take away the innocence of the beginning, the writing for the pleasure of writing, and of sharing. Now I felt I had something to live up to, topics I had to tiptoe around, and people’s feelings to worry about.

But I want to write, and I’m writing right now. And it feels great. But I’m still tiptoeing around certain things, and I’ll have to find a way to make that work.

So here I go, biting the bullet and trying again. Writing again.

*The things I write are a subjective amalgam of different things. Things that are happening now, things that have happened long ago. To me, to others. They’re always heartfelt and real, but not always what they seem. It’s writing, not reporting. 

On that particular morning,

Somewhere along the way, without knowing quite how or quite when, wednesdays had become her favorite day of the week. On that particular morning, she woke up and

That line popped into my head out of the blue today. I scribbled it down and thought it would make a great beginning to a short story or even novel. Wanna have a go at it? Give me some possible continuations to this sentence. Whether a couple of words or a couple of pages.

Unwrap me.

I’m not big on gifts. I am grateful and happy that we no longer do gifts at Christmas in my family. It’s been about 13 years and what a relief. No more stressful rushing in December to buy useless things that the others might not even like. Anytime of year we see something we think the other might like we just buy it and give it, whenever. It has made Christmas much more relaxing, warm, and fun.

At the same time, sometimes I love searching for, or finding, the perfect gift for a friend. And I love making cards or gifts when I (rarely) have the time or energy. And I love wrapping gifts. I love how they look and I love unwrapping them.

The best gifts I’ve gotten from my friends are ‘experiences’- afternoons or days they had planned out for me. Picking me up in the morning and taking me for a haircut or brunch, a city walk or a museum tour. This year for my birthday, two close girlfriends sent me a poster a few days before my birthday. It had a picture of me with balloons and said: Be at … at 10am. Bring hiking boots, an umbrella, sexy evening wear and pyjamas. I had no idea what any of the plans were but it was so lovely not to have to think, so lovely to be surprised. And of course we had a magical day.

What about gifts from boyfriends and girlfriends? Tough one. I have a hard time picking gifts for a boyfriend. Beyond making something cute, or planning a romantic getaway, I’m often stomped. If the person has expressed something they love, then I love secretly making a mental note and getting them something related. Such as a trip to attend a concert of a band they like. Or going to an antique car show if that’s what they like. I can also pick out a beautiful cashmere sweater or scarf. But what else? It stresses me out so sometimes I’d love it if we just skipped on the gifts.

As long as we make the occasion special. If a guy plans a wonderful evening or cooks a beautiful meal for me on my birthday, then I don’t need anything that comes in a box.

And I think it’s often even harder for men to pick out gifts for girls. So I don’t blame them when they get it wrong. Some of my friends got pretty awful or hilarious gifts from their boyfriends this year.

My Hungarian friend’s husband got her hiking boots. She looked at him trying to hide her utter disappointment. You have to know she doesn’t like nature, tents or anything like that. And how unromantic and unsexy are hiking boots as a gift? But then she found a note inside one of the shoes describing a trip to Italy. That was the real gift, and the boots were just for a one-day hike they’d take there. Italy = much better than boots and the surprise made it even better.

Lara got a blender from her boyfriend. Even if you’ve been married 15 years I’m not sure you want a blender. But when a boyfriend gets you one… well, no comment.

Tech gifts are typical of guys by the way. My ex always got me things like cameras, external hard drives or ipods. And it’s ok, because I still think of him anytime I use any of my gadgets.

In my other ‘home country’, they do wish-lists. You write a list every Christmas and birthday with all the things you want and everyone chooses whatever fits their budget or their relationship with you. Definitely makes things easier. Not sure how I feel about it though. Since living there, I write wish lists every Christmas and birthday, but I’ve never shared my wish-lists with anyone. Instead I just wish for the items and send people telepathic messages about them in my head. But the thing is, you have to not cling to the list you have in your head- oftentimes someone will completely surprise you and give you a gift that you didn’t even know you wanted, and that’s so much better than anything you could have put on your list.

Going back to boyfriends, what gifts do we really want? Anything that shows he’s been listening or has taken time to think. Price means nothing and there is not even any need to purchase anything.  I have two things in mind right now that I’d like to receive. One is an object and one is a document. Let’s see :-)

I’ll end with a nice gift my best male friend got his girlfriend. They’d only been together a month (now going on 3 years) but were madly in love. For the 7 days leading up to Christmas he got her a gift everyday. Her favorite chocolates,  CDs, DVDs, a book, even an item of lingerie (in a fun way). On Christmas eve he gave her a guitar. She’d been dreaming of one. She was so surprised she didn’t know what to say. Again, it’s not about the value of the guitar, but more the fact that he’d been listening. And had saved up and deprived himself of some things to be able to get it for her.

So what do gifts really represent? And why is there so much emotional energy attached to them? Do our parents create this obsession when they go overboard with presents when we are children? Do we just like seeing something and opening it… feeling that we are opening another view into the other person and our relationship… wondering if they really know us at all?